Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) Review

The week continues as does SuperPhillip Central's roll-out of reviews. This next game is a collection of four stellar action-platformers. It's Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1, and it's the PlayStation 4 build being reviewed here.

A collection with "X"-tra features but also "X"-tra problems

Unlike the classic Mega Man series, the Mega Man X series is much more inconsistent with its quality. There are just some games in the series that are simply stinkers while others are some of the best 2D action-platformers of all time--at least in this writer's opinion. Thankfully, despite the series being all over the place when it comes to quality, Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 gathers up four of the most fantastic games in the series and places them in one classic compendium. While that should be a recipe for immediate and doubtless success, Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 has one problem that may affect the enjoyment of these otherwise excellent games.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 features the first half of the Mega Man X series: the original Mega Man X trilogy, X1-X3, from the Super Nintendo and Mega Man X4, which is the PlayStation version. Each game has similar options to it, such as the ability to play full-screen or with a customizable, themed border, the ability to play with or without scanlines to create an old school CRT feel, and a special Rookie Hunter mode, which decreases the damage players take and in Mega Man X4's case, makes it so spikes and bottomless pits are not instant death. This mode is a nice addition, allowing players of all types and skill levels to enjoy the first four Mega Man X games, ones that are notoriously difficult for most players. 

The "buzz" on this stage from Mega Man X is that it's a premier example of a sensational opening level.
Mega Man X, of course, started it all back in 1993. Bringing with it a more mature approach to its story, greater action, faster gameplay, and a fully upgrade-able Mega Man by way of discovering Dr. Light's hidden capsules and items like Heart Tanks and Sub Tanks, Mega Man X was an entirely new generation of the Blue Bomber. He was much more mobile, able to scale walls, jump dash, and with Dr. Light's aforementioned capsules was able to find so many more ways of movement and maneuverability. The game introduced a new villain in the seemingly immortal, never-say-die/never-CAN-die Sigma, and brought forth a popular character in the series lore, the blonde-ponytail secondary protagonist Zero. The original Mega Man X is a game that other entries in the series have attempted to surpass in quality, but I maintain that the original is still the best. Some entries come close, but the very first Mega Man X remains my favorite with no filler, no superfluous gameplay--just all action and ingenious level design.

Recognize this guy? His random attack pattern landed him on
my Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History series of articles. (Okay, he's not SO bad, but still...)
Mega Man X2 followed, and it's my second favorite of the SNES games. It introduced even more replay value with an alternate ending for collecting all of Zero's parts from the X-Hunters, and further refined the gameplay of the original X game. Meanwhile, Mega Man X3 is what I consider the weakest game in the first Mega Man X Legacy Collection, offering an overwhelming overabundance of collectibles, too many variables to consider in how the last stages of the game play out, and a soundtrack that grates occasionally on the ears. However, it's important to note that Mega Man X3 with all of these minor issues that I have with the game is hardly a poor entry in the series. That's an especially apparent fact considering the latter collection of games.

While limited in how much you can play as him,
Mega Man X3 was the first time Zero was playable in any fashion.
Finally, Mega Man X4 rounds out the package, and it delivers 32-bit visuals for the first time in the series, anime cutscenes of dubious voice acting quality (but I personally love the pure cheese of it), the ability to play two different storylines as either X or for the first time in the series, a fully playable Zero (he was only available in limited quantities in X3). Although the levels are the exact same for both characters, their story beats, gameplay styles, and a boss or two differs. While X2 is my second favorite Super Nintendo game in the Mega Man X Legacy Collection, Mega Man X4 is my second favorite in the series in general.

So, having these four terrific games from the past is great and all, but there is one gnarly problem with them that mucks things up some. While the games look the same visually with no new graphical problems, the gameplay--on the other hand--is a different story. There is noticeable input lag in all four games, making it so many button and control inputs can be slightly delayed or don't register at all. By no means did it make these games absolutely broken, but it did make it for a harder go of things, especially in the more difficult platforming sections in each game. One such instance of this for me was the first Sigma Palace stage in Mega Man X1, where you ride moving platforms over a bottomless pit to reach the inside of the palace. I kept missing jumps I'd otherwise make because of the input lag. 

Outside of the four games that have the leading role in the Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1, there are also myriad other features included. For instance, there is an art gallery that spotlights everything from promotional art and character designs, to box art and special illustrations. There is also a music player that has all of the songs from Mega Man X through X4, and this can be listened to in playlist form. Included with the music player is a series of remixed and wholly original themes inspired by the series, which sound pretty awesome, especially as someone who loves the X series as much as I do. Listening to a new version of the Mega Man X stage select screen or the Mega Man X4 boss theme filled me such joy as a serious fan of the original Mega Man X games.

Also included in Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 is a brand-new boss rush mode called X Challenge. It pits you as X in an X Challenge mode exclusive armor against duos of Maverick bosses across the first six Mega Man X games. Each main stage is a series of three battles against a pair of bosses that you fight against simultaneously, usually themed in some way. For example, you'll take on underwater bosses like Mega Man X4's Jet Stingray while combating Mega Man X5's Tidal Whale, while another battle will have you take on a pair of Mega Man X2 bosses, Bubble Crab and Wheel Gator. Thankfully, X has more health to him than in the traditional games, and you get to choose from three special weapons from a limited selection to bring into each series of fights. Depending on what difficulty you play on, the bosses you face will be different and how much health X regains between battles changes as well.

Mega Man X's Ice Penguin AND Mega Man X4's Frost Walrus?
Let's give 'em both the cold shoulder, X!
X Challenge is a rather cool mode, all things considered. It's sort of surreal seeing Mavericks from completely different games team up together, but then again that's one of the major selling points of this mode. Attempting to evade attacks from one Maverick is generally challenging enough, but when you have two to deal with, things become mighty taxing mighty quickly. With online leaderboards to try to climb the ranks by how fast you beat each boss pair, there is some good replay value to be found in X Challenge, making it a nice inclusion to the collection.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 delivers some of the best 2D action-platformers in gaming history, and I don't say that flippantly. The games have truly withstood the test of time, and they're great for those who have loved them since they originally came out and for those who are playing them for the first time. While the mild input lag (it's more or less severe depending on the platform you're playing on is highly disappointing to witness, having such excellent games with Mega Man X1 through X4 and all of the included extras makes for a worthwhile collection. So, if you're searching for a retro compendium of games that continue to be awesome two decades after the fact, then Mega Man "X" marks the spot.

[SPC Says: B]

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